Was a joint commission with Project Arts Centre and the Hugh Lane, Dublin. It was included as part of the show “Communism” curated by Grant Watson at Project, Dublin, 20 Jan – 27 Feb 2005

“Bursting the art bubble”
Aidan Dunne, The Irish Times, Tuesday January 25, 2005, p.16

The world of art is generally considered separate from social and political life. A new exhibition at the Project represents a different picture, writes Aidan Dunne.

The boldly titled Communism at the Project Galley springs from an invitation to artists to explore their own relationship to the word, in the context of the apparent triumph of globalised capitalism or, as it has been unhappily dubbed, neoliberalism. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, China’s move to a market economy and the heady tone of millenarian texts such as Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History, it seemed that communism had been forever consigned to the scrap heap. The implication was that there was simply no viable alternative political or economic model to that entailed by the dictates of neoliberalism.

You don’t have to be a genius to realise that things haven’t quite worked out that way, that history has not quite ended, that the brave new world of the global marketplace is riven with contradictions – not least the problematic nature of the “free” in free trade – and that the unrestrained movement of capital in search of profit may not, in the end, serve the best interests of the majority or, indeed, anyone except the select few.

Do artists have much to offer in this global context? It is a paradox of much of the contemporary, globalised art scene that, while on the face of it art has never been more socially, culturally and politically aware, to all intents and purposes it exists in an “artworld” bubble – at one remove from social, political and even the wider cultural realities, particularly with regard to the exercise of power and engineering change. While it seems that art is extraordinarily free to flout conventions and break taboos, it is as if it enjoys that freedom at the expense of forgoing the possibility of exercising any practical influence on things.

With regard to certain kinds of art, this is so arguable because it inhabits a relativist, post-modern space, the rarefied, infinitely flexible space of critical theory, whereby systems of all kinds, including political, are seen as arbitrary linguistic constructs open to deconstruction and comment, but always displaced from any discredited notion of an external, objective reality. The international art circuit features a huge number of knowing works that appear to address cultural or political issues, but ultimately do so in an insulated, self-referential way.

Any habitual visitor to exhibitions of contemporary art will be familiar with catalogue texts that describe the work of “dealing with issues of…”, issues that are more likely than not charged with political significance. Taken at face value, the theoretical claims routinely made for art imply that it cannot bye effect decisive, seismic shifts in our relationship to a broad range of such issues, and hence precipitate actual change. The rather more prosaic reality is likely to be that the artwork proceeds to the next stop on the exhibition circuit, top another bout of artworld self-congratulation on its own pertinence, leaving the world outside the bubble surprisingly unscathed.

It is only fair to say that artists and theorists are not blind or indifferent to this state of affairs. Since the 20th century, they have been actively involved in the search for cultural alternatives that are often of necessity linked to alternative political and economic vision. Successive art movements, for example, tried to transcend the conventional workings of the art marker and the system of values on which it depends. The fact that the market proved to be amazingly adaptable and resilient is not reflection on them. Which is presumably where Communism comes in.

The various artistic responses that make up the project reflect some of the diverse strands of current artistic practice. There is, for example, the idea of configuring forms of social interaction as art, an idea that has a number of influential exponents. It is a kind of grass-roots approach whereby the social space becomes imbued with the potential for constructive discussion and engagement. Built into it is the view that the social sphere, and its political potential, has been substantially lost to, distorted by, or subsumed unto consumer culture.

For Communism, Seamus Nolan plans to set up a workshop in a storage area in Project. There, he aims to construct functional bicycles fashioned from some of the abandoned fragments throughout the city. It’s a promising intervention that has the potential to draw an interested response and provoke reflections on ownership, altruism and public space.

More ambivalently, perhaps, Veit Stratmann’s sets of office chairs, bound together in threes, “allow people to sit and move together around the building on the basis that they act collaboratively”. Something about this scheme makes it sound more like a parody of communality, at once knowing and mocking.

There is an explicitly ludic quality to Declan Clarke and Paul McDevitt’s concrete table tennis table, “a monument to leisure”, sited on O’Connell Street until the end of February. For those who want to play, bats are available from the Dublin Tourist Information Centre nearby. The work establishes a social space in the centre of the city. It exhibits that peculiarly artworld quality of informed, playful disengagement, not far removed from a pose of amused, ironic detachment.

Predictable, the far-flung network of anti-globalisation movements have served as a focus and stimulus for artists looking for a means of direct action. One strand of Communism, Susan Kelly’s What is to be Done? is particularly  close to the anti-globalisation movement. It predates this particular exhibition and it extends beyond it, reposing Lenin’s question of 1902 in a neoliberal world. It has already served as a focus for a worldwide sequence of debates, and has produced a sizeable volume of response.

In recent years, more and more artists have looked to practical alternatives, devising blueprints for ways of living outside conventional structures. Klaus Weber’s  hypothesised building model form is an example of this approach. Goshka Macuga and Lali Chetwynd’s performance piece was effectively a homage to archetypal political and aesthetic revolutionaries, Lenin and Dad.

One of the most fascinating segments of Communism is a fold-out print based on Jim Fitzpatrick’s original Che Guevara poster. The reverse of the sheet features an interview between the notably quick-witted Fitzpatrick and Alexsandra Mir tracing the tangled history of the iconic image, and, incidentally, providing an insight into the encounter between two generations of political activists.

Fitzpatrick’s motivation in making and promoting his work was idealistic. It was taken from a photograph by a Cuban photographer, “Korda”, and the account of its progress is engrossing. The final irony is that after his death Korda’s family sold the rights to a fashion company. It is now applied to expensive garments made in Honduras. Where, Mir asks, does that leave Fitzpatrick? “on the outside looking in, where I’ve always been.” He also exemplifies the rubric that Susan Kelly cites on Political art: the only way to make political art is never to know where the art ends and the politics begins.

“Clarke & McDevitt Present”
JJ Charlesworth, Art Monthly, March 2005, No 284, pp. 19-21

In 1902 Lenin published What is to Be Done?, a rallying call to the growing Russian social-democratic movement and also a fierce and provocatively divisive polemic concerning revolutionary practice, party organisation, and the relationship between a revolutionary party and the broader mass of working people: all at a moment when there was everything to play for in the struggle to overthrow the Tsarist state. A century later, and a common reply to Lenin’s dead injunction might be, ‘we’re not sure, but we might make more art’.

Project’s curator grant Watson has commissioned an ambitious exhibition of new work that attempts to give shape to today’s confused relation to radical politics and the possibility of social change. However, because artists are often no clearer than anyone else on such questions, a presentation of artworks commissioned in response to the term ‘communism’ is bound to be an uneven, fractured thing. If Lenin’s What is to Be Done? was the opening for an unequivocal setting-out of a strict agenda towards a clear political goal, today the question vibrates with uncertainty and contradiction.

‘Communism’ is wise to this, recognising that this term in particular contains all the debilitating loss of certainty over the means and ends of communism that, for those in the West, erupted with events of may 1968 and continued to unravel until the end of the Soviet Union two decades later. The responses to questions of collective action and desired outcome are in this exhibition of a humbler, localised and more playful tone, not requiring too much of too many.

Works such as Klaus Weber’s Psycho-Botanic-Mirror-House, Draft for Commune, 2005, step up to represent the continued appeal of small, anarchist forms of self-organisation and the collective realisation of desire. A model of a mirror-glass house with an apparently ‘hallucinogenic plant’ growing out of it suggests we turn on, tune in, and drop out. Revolutions rarely get far when everyone is off their face on acid or grass, but at least Weber’s work alerts us to the fact that to many current rebels and radicals, an orthodox notion of communism is no longer the desired alternative to capitalism. That Weber’s anarcho-hippy commune does not appear more ridiculous says much about how seriously regressive, small-scale lifestyle alternatives are taken by would-be critics of the status quo.

Less polemical attempts at ameliorating life through slight changes to the social fabric are more convincing by dint of their sharp-witted examination of ideas of exchange and social benefit. Seamus Nolan has quietly set up the Urban Bicycle Exchange, 2005, next to Project’s main entrance, rescuing abandoned bikes before the city cleaners come with their bolt-cutters, offering free bicycles to all those who are prepared to put in the labour-time to assemble them from the parts he has salvaged. Declan Clarke & Paul McDevitt have imported a concrete table-tennis table, popular in Berlin parks, to the paved central isle that runs the length of Dublin’s busily commercial O’Connell Street. Passers-by are enjoined to pick up free bats and play ping-pong while buses and shoppers swarm past. Set between the dizzying 125m metal spike of the new regeneration-friendly ‘Monument of Light’, and the stout last-century monument to Charles Stewart Parnell, the tables chooses to disdain both the spike’s vacuously optimistic neo-liberal pointer to prosperity and Parnell’s long-forgotten call for Irish self-determination. Some Situationist prankster has spray-painted the slogan ‘Don’t Think, Shop!’ at Parnell’s feet; Clarke & McDevitt’s table perhaps suggests ‘Don’t Act, Play!’ instead.
Performance and memorialisation are at stake in the work of the other artists. London-based Lali Chetwynd and Goshka Macuga both present the remnants of performances held simultaneously on the opening night. Macuga had found a Lenin lookalike to deliver a speech in German to the art crowd, whilst a little later Chetwynd’s troop of locally sourced amateur performers filed in to stage re-enactment of imagined events at the Dadaist Cabaret Voltaire. Chetwynd’s performance continues her headlong reinvention of a kind of absurdist performance art much indebted to the Dadaists, but in which destruction and catastrophe have been replaced by the strangely dislocated and comfortable hedonism of pop-cultural slumming. That this is for the most part the product of the art spectator’s easy indifference to performance art’s apparent extremes defines the limits of comedy and failure of Chetwynd’s activity. The ghosts of cultural and political revolutionaries, called back from the past, find themselves faced with the rather more attenuated and unrevolutionary passions of the 21st-century art spectator.

In another form of recollection, Susan Kelly presents her ongoing archive of responses to Lenin’s initial question, setting out the small brown response cards on the reading lecterns made after Rodchenko’s 1925 Workers’ Reading Room designs, and surrounded by Eva Berendes’ vaguely constructivist spray-patterned curtains. Versions of Kelly’s archive have visited Russia, the US and Finland, and the range of responses on view reflects the widely different expectations of contributors to the question. In Dublin, new responses are of a rebellious, comedic and nihilist variety: Lenin was ‘a monster’, capitalism is ‘destroying the planet’, we must learn to live in harmony with the environment, we should indulge in shitting and fucking as the only authentic response to contemporary life and – wait for it – ‘art is rubbish!’

The Dublin additions to Kelly’s archive offer a good snapshot of the political prejudices that currently beset public attitudes and which equally inform much anti-capitalist radicalism in its thinking about political action and social organisation. If, in Lenin’s day, superseding capitalism meant wresting collective control of productive life from the minority, then you at least knew what it was you were fighting for. Today, no such agreement on what would constitute a better society exists: the generalised sentiment that capital is a bad thing isn’t matched by a convincing vision of an alternative, nor a strategy to bring it about. Veit Stratmann’s circular arrangements of bucket chairs, fixed to a common frame and fitted with wheels, makes a comic point of the futility of collective action; sat back-to-back to your fellow users, you struggle to push your way in any single direction, a giggling mockery of any unifying concept of progress or collective action.

In such an impasse, melancholy is inevitable, as in Aleksandra Mir’s reworking of Dubliner Jim Fitzpatrick’s famous poster of Che Guevara, the faded optimism of every 60s student dorm amended with the equally faded image of that triumph of white heat technology, the now defunct Concorde. Melancholy also cuts through Hito Steyerl’s memorable short film November, 2005, a meditation on the disappearance of her friend Andrea Wolf, a young German leftist who was killed fighting with the Kurds in turkey, and whose image then reappeared at Kurdish demonstration as a martyr to the cause.

Collective action only makes sense with a common goal, which can only really emerge out of an understanding of what connects people in their common interest. ‘Communism’ pushes at those tensions in contemporary art’s deliberation of what can be: the presentation of moralising models of how things might be organised (the eco-anarchist commune), forms of limited intervention into the present, which while they don’t really change things too much, at least ask one at least to consider the possibility (the bicycle shop, the table-tennis table), and forms of nostalgia for times where the idea of change was asserted with greater conviction. If current art cannot overcome these limitations, perhaps Lenin’s question should be extended: ‘What is to be done – more than this?’

“Communism” – review
Robbie O’Halloran, Circa, Spring 2005, pp. 110 – 111

The history of Communism is well documented and its iconography is familiar territory in the west. The trajectory of Russian communism to its ultimate collapse could be seen as one of the most significant factors in shaping western identity at the turn of this century – the antithesis of communism, the competitive free market and the proliferation of ideas and media which led to the materialistic frenzy of the 1980s being a case in point. The free market economy was always destined to prevail, especially after the economic re-alignments of WWII. Today, as nominal Communist countries buckle under the sophisticated propaganda of American and pro-American economies, it is easy to suggest that communism is a closed chapter.

However, one gets a sense from this show that it is less about communism and more about the various crises of the west. Susan Kelly re-stages Lenin’s seminal question of 1902, “What is to be done?” and seeks to elicit responses with a real sense of urgency. If Lenin’s original question sought to mobilise opinion against the crisis in bourgeois Russian society, then Kelly’s respondents seem to reflect more current crisis in the west. Reading the feedback, she appears to have elicited some very strong expressions of discontent. One American participant suggests, “Lenin had a theory of revolution, a very precise understanding of the historical conjuncture in which revolution was a possible decision. But our situation… is immeasurably more complex than Lenin’s.”

In spite of the efforts of both capitalist and communist systems to differentiate between themselves, the significance of public space has always been critical to both. In the slender shadow of the Dublin Spire artists Declan Clarke and Paul McDevitt have installed a concrete table-tennis table. Standing in the contentious space of the city’s main thoroughfare, this piece brings to mind the open-air public spaces of communist countries such as China. It also seems to emphasise the leisure industry for which the street was infamous, a connection which blighted the city’s principal public space for years and one which the city planners are desperate to shake off. In this context the piece seems to refer to the self-representation of a quickly developing capitalist economy. Taking the metaphor of competitive volley and counter-volley, Clarke and McDevitt have staged an interesting representation, perhaps not so much of east versus west, but of that which is common to both political systems, its struggle with itself.

For the invitation, Aleksandra Mir has superimposed an image of Concorde onto Jim Fitzpatrick’s well known poster of Che Guevara. Presented like this, the image articulates the twin summits of idealism: achievement through materialism and achievement through struggle and revolution. Behind both icons lies the very real spectre of failure.

If the capitalist promise of material and individual freedom was at the heart of the failure of communism, then the material excess of capitalism appears to be the mantra of dissent within those capitalist cultures. In a modest annex to the Project space, Seamus Nolan has set up a workshop where abandoned bikes can be reconstructed using spare parts. It is a simple and real project that addresses the lazy habits of production and consumption to which we have become accustomed. It also reflects the sentiments of many of the participants in Susan Kelly’s “What is to be done?” project, that the only way forward is through reconstitution and re-evaluation. What results may be a hybrid, but it becomes clearer as one navigates this show that the lines between what we perceive as homogenous systems are constantly shifting out of focus.

The theme of communism and its failings is central to both Viet Stratman’s piece and that of Klaus Weber. Stratman’s sculpture consists of nine plastic chairs fixed in an outward looking circle to a wheeled metal frame. Like some impractical boardroom table, the sculpture will function only if every sitter moves in unison. How any movement can operate is difficult to imagine as any sitter will necessarily have a different and incommunicable perspective to the other sitters.

Weber, with Psycho-botanic-mirror-house, draft for commune, has produced a scale model of a building constructed of glass and mirror from which grows a living plant with hallucinogenic properties. Any attempt to look inside the construct reveals only a fragmented image of oneself. The image of a society which is revealed to the one which examines it is generally a reflection of the others’ failing and fragmentation. A properly functioning commune is an illusion.

At the start of the Cold War America persecuted those elements within its own society which it most feared from outside. The idea of the iron curtain fed the notions of difference and embattlement, notions which are active today. A curtain can conceal both the one who hides and the object of fear. Today the curtain is not simply a historical term but, as with Eva Berendes’ semi-transparent installation, a subtle and complex fabric through which we examine, not just the past, but also the present.

“Communism” – Tim Stott, Circa online review

There is much art that wears its politics openly these days, often by demanding revisions and reconstructions of various political impulses, historical events and 'discredited' terms. So, in the absence of socialism... art? The Project Arts Centre has commissioned ten artists to "consider the word communism, and, moving beyond a sense of impasse, suggest ways in which this term can be materialised."

However, it could be argued that, having only depleted political programmes to draw upon, recent political art operates in a vacuum. In this context, there is a risk that 'materialisation' is a neutral or empty gesture, and that political content is staged, for show only; perhaps to add a little spice to otherwise insipid works. In this case, the impasse would continue and the political intentions of this exhibition would be still-born.

'Materialisation',then, must be about taking a position as much as providing a cultural model. The naturalistic approach, which stages political events from history so that those events might 'speak for themselves', shies away from taking a position: and in doing so it neutralizes the complex events that it stages without interpreting, returning the past to the present in the form of a spectacular re-enactment that fails to repeat the commitment that mobilised people in the first instance.

To take a position is not so much to follow a programme external to art, but to make what art does best Ð what T J Clark has called those "wordless gestures" that are themselves political, "embedded in the matter they describe," making demands upon bodies in concrete situations, not resurrecting familiar ghosts and having them 'speak for themselves'.

What then are we to make of Goshka Macuga's impersonation of Lenin? The speech was delivered in the original German, reinforcing the distance between the audiences addressed by Lenin and by his imitator. And this distance is not only that of different languages. Lenin's audience was active and potentially volatile - it was dangerous: the audience for Macuga was, of course, quite tame by comparison; perhaps looking more to be entertained than mobilised. If the intention was to revivify the original rhetoric of communism, this performance fell flat - the audience were impassive (though not because of any lack of talent on Macuga's part). Repeated as art this radical political address was neutralised. This gives us some insight into the difficulties faced by those wishing to bring together the causes of art and politics: as art, this piece makes a powerful gesture towards, or against, a certain kind of recreational politics; but as political art, it fails to agitate, because to repeat an event of this significance in a gallery situation is to make it farcical.

So, what about the repetition of an original farce? Simultaneous to Macuga's performance was Lali Chetwynd's restaging of an episode from the Cabaret Voltaire . The two performances could not be more different, one would think. Eva Berendes' curtain backdrop standing between the two would seem to reiterate this division, but in fact it draws attention to the equivalence of the two performances. In both, political action "has become reduced to theatrical exhibitionism" (Josie Appleton). The violent buffoonery and licentious provocation of the original Dada performances was intended to shock people out of their decadence and complacency, by throwing nihilism back in the face of a bankrupt society. Simply repeating a Dada performance, in the absence of those social mores that were its target, is less to violate the sensibility of one’s audience than to titillate it. And the cynicism and prejudice of an audience will find only confirmation in what does not provoke it, in what it can make safe by tolerating.

The carnival atmosphere of Dada performance was more than just a negative gesture; it was a return to a vulgar and shameless body, transgressing its civilised limits, and reconstituting it collectively within spasms of laughter. Chetwynd's performance was funny and entertaining, but because it was so self-consciously artful, and so reverent towards its source, it could not be transgressive. Where once the Cabaret Voltaire was iconoclastic, irreverent, it now stands as an icon of 'disorder', re-ordered and contracted within the framework of arts institutions and their various aesthetic protocols.

Are we then, like 'Pierre Menard' attempting to write Don Quixote again from scratch in the 1930s, to anticipate "the vanity awaiting all man’s efforts" and accept the inevitable repetition of events? If this is so, the appropriate response would be to embark consciously upon a futile act knowing that any repetition that coincides with the form of its source will always be anachronistic, and will therefore encourage some variation in interpretation. But herein lies the fiction: perhaps the truth is that history proper has not yet begun; all up to now has been a 'pre-history', the endless recurrence of the same old story.

The past is appropriated when its events are repeated. As an example of such, are these performances a case of dressing up current political-art practices in the garb of past revolutions in order to disguise their lack of social content, thus merely parodying the past, telling the same old story with a knowing wink; or are they a case "of finding once more the spirit of revolution, not of making its ghost walk about again" (Marx)? The revolutionary past must be appropriated and put into the service of the present, but not in form only : otherwise the present cannot arrive at its own content, facing towards the future; it cannot, as Marx said, "let the dead bury their dead."

So, what of the future? Klaus Weber has drawn on Constructivism to build a scale model of a house of glass and mirrors, which he has called Psycho-botanic-mirror-house, draft for commune. The house is built around the principles of cybernetics, recycling, coexistence, the exploitation of renewable natural resources, and the undefined properties of certain hallucinogenic plants. Like many of the original Constructivist designs, Weber's Draft is effective as a dream image, expressing a 'utopian surplus' over and above its utility. It  was this surplus that maintained the gap between Constructivist dream and Soviet reality, allowing, briefly, the two to criticise one another, dream affecting reality indirectly by analogy and encouragement. When this gap was closed, when dream was forced upon reality, it was to have disastrous consequences (consequences which are, strangely, not spoken of in this exhibition: surely one needs to discuss what went wrong before one can think of putting it right?).

Can the present means represent a future that will supersede those means? Whatever dreams of the future spring from the past, and are repesented in the present cannot be other than a fiction. These dreams can be regulative, appearing at the edge of what is familiar, but they cannot be predictive. Were these dreams to be realised at present they would make a fetish of some future configuration, and they would create a sanctuary from failed social structures that would in no way break with these structures; in fact, would be their perfect ideological supplement.

As with any game, those played out in dream images continue to conjure up unexpected and different speculations regarding the future. But then, ‘who is playing?’ The posters and fliers for the exhibition were designed by Aleksandra Mir, showing two iconic images of the twentieth century; one of Che Guevera and one of Concorde. The resulting collage is a striking and somewhat discordant juxtaposition: but although as a mass-produced image it circumvents those awkward paradoxes that arise from autonomous and unique art objects (or artists) making reference to collective politics, a rather banal question remains: why were these fliers not distributed more widely? Why was it only the recognised members of the Dublin art world  that were invited to the opening of this exhibition? Restricted to such a context, Mir’s image seems less a correlate to political engagement than to a certain unspoken relief that the cultural sector is not open to actual political disruption, oddly coupled with nostalgia for a time when it was. This protectionist policy, by which the art world manages its audience and its players, and panders to their narcissism, is insupportable at the best of times, and especially so in an exhibition that claims to re-engage with communism; a 'term' which, in becoming 'materialised',would dissolve such privileged divisions of labour. The freedom to play, it seems, remains the preserve of the few.

At the core of this exhibition is Susan Kelly's work, which once again poses Lenin's (or Chernyshevsky's) question "What is to be done?" Begun in Finland, this work has since travelled widely, accumulating an archive as it goes. Audiences are requested to write down their own answers to this question. These answers are varied and often contradictory, ranging from Bush-beating rants to considered essays, from the committed to the absurd to the 'wouldn't it be nice if ...?'. There does appear to be some consensus as to who or what the enemy is; yet, as to what, how and by whom something should be done, there is no clear answer (though some responses are more feasible than others). Some responses read more like individual demonstrations of discontent that, once voiced, foreclose collective action. The absence of some shared ideology, and its replacement with an aggressive individualism seem to be the most pressing obstacles (still).

Another problem, of course, is the scarcity of art practices appropriate to collective politics. One might argue that Kelly's work itself is a form of collective labour. But then this labour is one-sided, emphasising the intellectual, or discursive, over the more material. Kelly's installation in Dublin takes elements from Alexander Rodchenko's Worker's Club Reading Room of 1925. But in Rodchenko's interior, immaterial labour (education, etc) was bound to manual labour rather than being a refuge from it - labour itself was cognitive: its objects were responsive to the workers' needs, making use of advances in technology in order to reconcile humans with the objects that constitute their environment. The constructivist object, for Rodchenko, was to be a 'comrade', another organ of human activity, mute but adjusting to people's actions, expanding and dying with them, its shape and function continually renewed in light of new demands. In comparison, Kelly's objects are inert, and subsequently, education and intellectual production is again split from the body that it works through. Whilst this material dimension is overlooked, the answers to 'what is to be done?' remain quite separate from 'doing'.

Perhaps, then, there is a need for practices that engage more directly and on equal terms with a non-art reality, that have a sense of social purpose and involvement, and that make institutional resources available outside the art institution in everyday situations. This rationale seems to support Seamus Nolan's bicycle workshop and renovators, and Declan Clarke and Paul McDevitt's installation of a concrete table tennis table on O'Connell Street. Both have been immensely popular, and in this sense at least, more successful at materialising some form of collectivity than the works in the gallery.

Here, however, the familiar question of critical autonomy emerges. Like Veit Stratmann's mobile sculpture of nine office chairs 'joined back to back in a circle', Clarke's and McDevitt's 'monument to leisure', though entertaining, does little more than encourage the notion of collaboration as a distraction rather than a necessity. Pace Clarke and McDevitt, the presence of a table tennis table on O'Connell Street does more to highlight hitherto unimaginative town planning than make some collective demand.

Nolan’s emphasis on non-alienated production and distribution is laudable, as is the general promotion of recycling resources and minimising environmental exploitation. There is, no doubt, a need for exchanges based upon local and substantial ‘face-to-face’ interactions, but we should be wary of romanticising pre-capitalist or ‘natural’ economies as alternative models: ‘solidarity’ within such markets is often built upon a tribal basis, and therefore antithetical to communism.

Furthermore, artistic interventions need to disrupt the social narratives and conventions of the concrete situations in which they involve themselves: they need to have some ‘corrosive’ effect, rather than continuing the fluid circulation of signs that supplements that of capital. ‘Corrosive’ forms second the demand that politics be the art  of the impossible, by refusing to make demands which can be either administrated within an institution or eventually converted to the axiom of market exchange.

A problem with practices that follow the weak institutional logic of accessibility, cultural provision, social inclusion, and consensus is that they must be intelligible; they must signify without difficulty if they are not to deter their audience. To do this is not only to participate in the present ‘post-critical’, ‘pragmatic’ culture, it is also to make the patronising assumption that the wider audience is alienated by works that are incomprehensible; that they should only be ‘challenged’ in small, manageable doses.

Lastly, critical culture cannot be a substitute for politics, even if its objects and its discussions are saturated by politic motivations, strategies, etc. Culture does not constitute politics as such: strategically it is weak unless it passes over into militancy; and as a method of critical analysis it was long since overtaken by science. In light of this, its most fitting role seems to be anarchic, disruptive. If labour in a neo-liberal economy is largely immaterial, then the modalities that characterise such labour - e.g. non-central, fluid organisation, the network - and which are most prominent in cultural practice, could be used as militant counter-conduct. Political art might exploit those experimental forms of organisation often found in art in order to make concrete political demands: though it m ight well supersede its status as art in the process.